It's no secret that I dislike Bob Ehrlich a great deal, but his latest act just mystifies me. As was reported earlier this week, the City School Board voted to lower the minimum passing grade from a 70 to a 60 this past year.
Good move. As a teacher, it helps me because, frankly, not all kids are average at every subject. I end up with a ton of kids bunched up right in the 68-72 range, and have to juggle numbers sometimes to get kids to pass. The grade of a 70 as a minimum passing grade just watered down what a "C" really was. Sometimes, a kid works pretty hard and just gets a "D". It happens. The traditional A-B-C-D grading scale - which has been in effect for as long as American has had public schools - works to allow for a kid who deserves not to have to retake a class but still isn't up the the par of average.
The reason the school board made the change, however, is much more practical. Graduates of city public schools would be credited with a 0.0 on their 0-4.0 scale when applying to college if they received a grade between 60 and 69. Kids from the county would receive a credit of a 1.0 on the same scale for the same grade. Already disadvantaged city kids were being judged more harshly than kids from around the rest of the state when it came to college admissions. That just sucks.
My sources within North Avenue tell me that the city publics schools have tried for the last four years to communicate its grading scale to colleges, but, every year, it is at least partially ignored by colleges. Thus, graduates of city public schools are put at a disadvantage, simply because of the grading scale. Baltimore County Public Schools is on the traditional 60-100 scale, as are the majority of districts in the state - so why are city public schools being criticized for this move?
It doesn't lower standards; it just changes the scale to allow for a kid below average in a certain subject to still get the credit as long as they attain over 60% of the skills. What this will do is make all the grades more authentic, because there won't be a huge number of kids bunched up with a 70. I'm really looking forward to it.
To see Bob Ehrlich (who, when I was about to be laid off three years ago, called the financial crisis of the BCPSS "fascinating") use this as a political wedge just infuriates me. Especially considering that it was the school board that voted for this, and Ehrlich appointed half of the school board himself. O'Malley just learned about the vote this week and had just as much influence on it as Ehrlich did.
And to those of you who think that the Baltimore Sun is a liberally-biased newspaper, it is, but their coverage of this event has been incredibly conservative. In this article, I have to scroll all the way to the second page at the bottom to get any justification of why this move was made - it's all about giving Baltimore City kids a fair shake at college admissions, yet the article leads off with the lowering standards bullshit.
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